Fourth-grade student DeQuan Jefferson and Appalachian State University students Savalius Swain and Sierra Howell have something in common. Each was awarded a scholarship totaling $20,000 to attend the university.
And while Jefferson must wait until he graduates from high school and enrolls at the university to receive the scholarship, Swain and Howell are attending Appalachian, thanks in part to business people from Wayne County who contribute funds to make the scholarship possible.
The Freshman Class Scholarship for Wayne County was established in 1993 by a N.C. businessman who believes in racial unity and educational excellence. It is awarded annually to the student from an historically under-represented group with the highest score in the end-of-grade math placement exam given in third grade. Recipients agree to major in an area of math or science. Jefferson received his scholarship in a ceremony at his school in January.
Swain, who was the 2001-02 scholarship recipient from School Street Elementary School, is a sophomore majoring in actuarial science in Appalachian’s Department of Mathematics. Howell, the 2002-03 recipient from North Drive Elementary School, is a freshman and plans to major in accounting.
They both love the orderliness of math, the Appalachian campus and being in Boone. And both have words of advice for Jefferson: Be aware of the pressure to succeed that may follow receiving the award.
“I had a lot of pressure on me after receiving the scholarship,” Howell said. “Everywhere I went everyone knew me as the little girl who won the scholarship. I didn’t feel like a normal student sometimes. I felt like I had to excel better than everyone else.”
But now that she is at Appalachian, Howell is excited about the opportunity the scholarship will provide toward achieving her career goal of becoming a forensic accountant.
Appalachian was the only university that Swain applied to, but he thinks it’s important for scholarship recipients to keep an open mind about their college choices, research their academic options and make college visits to ultimately determine the right college fit for them.
“It really worked out for me,” he said, “but I think that some people believe that because they receive this scholarship there is a lot more pressure to come to Appalachian. Let the university speak for itself. It’s a great place and I love it here. Whether I had the scholarship or not, I would still be here.”
Both Swain and Howell participated in the university-sponsored Wayne County Weekend that brings scholarship recipients to campus when they enter high school. The students learn about the university’s academic offerings in math and science and campus life, and meet with professors, among other activities.
Swain and Howell said that experience convinced them that Appalachian was the right choice for their college pursuits.
“A professor who was giving a tour of the math department mentioned actuarial science as a degree option,” Swain said. “It sounded interesting and fun and a way to apply mathematics in a non-typical way.”
When Swain began searching for programs with a solid actuarial degree, he found that Appalachian’s program was considered one of the best.
“I think that’s how I ended up here,” Swain said of the campus visit. “I had visited other campuses, but when I came here I was amazed with the scenery and the people. Everything about it was just perfect.”
Howell had a similar reaction to campus, the Boone area and the academic offerings after participating in the Wayne County Weekend program. During her visit, she learned she could combine her love of math with her interest in criminal justice and pursue a career as a forensic accountant.
While not all recipients of the Freshman Class Scholarship for Wayne County have chosen to enroll at Appalachian, many have continued their education at another university or college.
The first recipient of the scholarship to enroll at Appalachian was. Renaldo Davis, a 1996-97 award recipient, who attended Appalachian from 2005 to 2007.